FCC bans AI-generated voices in robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has declared the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls illegal, with immediate effect. The new rule addresses concerns over how the technology is being used to scam people and mislead voters.

Hand holding cellphone with incoming call from Unknown Caller - fraud scam phishing call spoofing

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has unanimously adopted a Declaratory Ruling that recognises calls made with AI-generated voices as ‘artificial’ under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This ruling, effective immediately, makes voice cloning technology used in common robocall scams targeting consumers illegal. The decision gives state attorneys general the power to hold scam artists accountable for using AI voice cloning technology, and it allows the FCC to fine violators and block the telephone companies that carry the calls

The rise of AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls has escalated in recent years, allowing fraudsters to exploit vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters. The FCC’s decision to classify these calls as “artificial” is a clear warning to these fraudsters. State Attorneys General now have new tools to combat these scams and ensure the protection of the public from fraud and misinformation.

The FCC’s ruling addresses the increasing use of AI technology in robocalls to confuse consumers with misinformation by imitating the voices of celebrities, political candidates, and close family members. Previously, State Attorneys General could only target the outcome of these unwanted AI-voice-generated robocalls, such as the scam or fraud being perpetrated. However, this ruling now makes using AI to generate the voice in these robocalls itself illegal, expanding the legal avenues through which state law enforcement agencies can hold these perpetrators accountable.

In November 2023, the FCC launched an inquiry to understand how AI is involved in illegal robocalls and whether it should be subject to oversight under the TCPA. The agency also sought input on how AI can help with pattern recognition to prevent illegal robocalls before they reach consumers. This highlights the FCC’s commitment to addressing the issue of illegal robocalls that utilise AI technology.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is the primary law used by the FCC to combat unwanted calls. It restricts telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. Telemarketers are required to obtain prior express written consent from consumers before conducting robocalls. This Declaratory Ruling ensures that AI-generated voices in calls are also held to those same standards.

Under the TCPA, the FCC has civil enforcement authority to impose fines on robocallers. The Commission can also take steps to block calls from telephone carriers facilitating illegal robocalls. Additionally, the TCPA allows individual consumers or organisations to bring lawsuits against robocallers in court. State Attorneys General also have their own enforcement tools tied to robocall definitions under the TCPA.

A coalition of 26 State Attorneys General, representing over half of the nation’s Attorneys General, recently expressed their support for the FCC’s ruling. By taking this step, the FCC is building on its efforts to establish partnerships with law enforcement agencies across the country. These partnerships aim to identify and eliminate illegal robocalls, providing critical resources to build cases and coordinate efforts to protect consumers and businesses nationwide. The FCC offers partner states the expertise of its enforcement staff, resources, and remedies to support state investigations.